I did with my dog interesting tracking training. As many people in my different seminars have been asking about details of my tracking concept, I thought that I will write an article based on this training. I think that it was interesting training and it opens a lot of the ideas I am using in my training. As people who have been participating in my seminars know, I do not hide anything about my system and ideas and I also will be here very honest and open. I have schema of this training and as I thought, that it could be interesting training I have also video of it. It was long track – about 2900 steps (GPS showed 1,9 km) and the video is nearly 1 hour long. I am pretty sure that for most of people it is boring to watch as it is too long, but I also know, that there are a lot of people from earlier seminars, who could be interested about it. So I loaded all the video to YouTube to you to watch. It is not just walking with dog for 1 hour, but there is all the time something what has certain idea. So the ones who have patience to watch for sure will understand better. I would be glad after to answer questions if people have such.
I start from the aim of the training. As I have Estonian IPO-FH championships in 5 weeks, I need to adjust my dog from IPO tracks to FH tracks. In my mind it is not easy job as these two disciplines have so different demands for the way of working for the dog. I have been adjusting already for couple of weeks. In my eye it takes minimum 8–9 weeks to get dog adjusted. Of course it depends a lot on the dog and the experience of the dog etc.
Main purpose of this training was to build up endurance and show that even in the difficult parts when the dog is tired he needs to work out by himself. IPO people very often think that the tracking is just tracking but to track nicely two IPO-FH tracks of 1800 steps in two days dog needs really good endurance in tracking. I have noticed that average IPO dog does not have endurance for longer than max 800–1000 step tracks. Especially it comes out when the tracking is not just obedience, but there are also problems that he needs to solve. It does not mean that dog cannot walk in track longer than 1000 steps, but after 900 mostly they have difficulties to concentrate and solve problems. To have concentration for tracking longer than 15–20 minutes it is really difficult for the dog that is not used to this.
So I have been building up endurance already and before this track I made tracks about 1600–2000 steps. Idea with this track was to jump a little longer and try to go until 3000. Before the competition I want to go until 4200–4300. When you want to build up endurance it is very easy to make long straights and collect all steps you need this way. Anyhow it does not work. When you look the video of my dog you see clearly, that even in the last part my dog did nice straights, but had lot problems in situations where he needed to solve something. This is because in straights dog very often goes automatically and just to keep track without solving anything gives to dog possibility to work just with half power. Very often also the handler helps dog a lot as when dog starts to be tired he starts to read handler more. So at straights where the handler just walks behind the dog, dog works in half and feels that handler is coming behind and so it gives dog possibility to show much nicer work than he is doing in reality. So doing long tracks with long straights is giving endurance just for the handler who needs to walk behind. It does not give any good picture where the dog is really tired. To control the real situation it is good to make some tricks (traps) inside, where the dog needs to solve problems and based on that handler can see how good is dog’s ability to work and how tired the dog is in reality. When you take a dog who can nicely track 600 steps IPO track, you make the track double (1200 steps) just adding some corners and making straight longer you can very easily get experience that dog has no problems to work double longer tracks. When you make some traps after 900 steps, the picture will be totally different.
Track at the video is 2900 steps, it is 1,9 km and I aged it nearly 6 hours to get everything out I wanted. All crossings were done about 40 minutes before working the track. The field was quite difficult. In video it seems soft etc., but it was such a black ground, where I would have really difficulties to find the track without the GPS, as steps were nearly not visible. Also the field was very variable having very different cover in different parts, changing quickly. As it was raining all these 6 hours, it also washed a lot of the smell away from the wheat straws in the places where was not dirt visible.
I built up the track appearing in schema and in video this way, that the first straight was most difficult. There was a lot of tractor crossings, change in terrain even parts covered with water. I wanted that the first straight will take much energy out of the dog to get him in the mood I would like to have, followed by some exercises. When you look the video you will see well how Hawk works in the first straight putting a lot of energy into this. I knew that this will suck a lot of energy out of him. The length of this straight was about 200 steps. Then I made easier sharp corner to give dog possibility to win the corner after difficult first straight. I needed the dog for the next sharp corner in the mood that he is tired enough, that he will need to solve difficult corner in the mood that he really is tired but on the other hand I wanted that he gets from the first sharp angle enough self-confidence to know taht he can win also the next one.
Second sharp corner was in place where tractor has made circle around the column. So it was more messed up and just after the corner there was a lot of old wheat what covered the field in the way, that there was not much smell after 6 hours. I did it in purpose to hit dog’s self-confidence badly as he was not so sure about track direction and then the track disappears. So he needs to believe a lot in himself to look more widely and longer to get the smell. When you look the video you can see, that Hawk works really a lot to figure this out and you can see that he is a little tired, but anyhow he concentrates nicely. In such situations it is always much easier to make a track were dog can win right away to have more self-confidence etc. I do not do like this as I want that the dog will believe in himself like steel and he really can work through anything, that’s why I made it so difficult in this spot. I kept him searching impossible place until I saw that thinking about what is coming he starts to be too tired. Then I helped the dog in the way that I moved more to the area, where he can find the track by himself. So it was still this way that he needed to find the track, but I gave him more chance for this. This way dog will experience, that he searched hard and found the solution and does not understand that I helped.
Then there was nearly 200 steps straight. It was the kind of work that dog still remembered the previous sharp angle and so he was precise and so it worked well for endurance as he worked in the concentration I needed. As I was sure that after this distance he will be more or less in automatic I build a curve in the track. Not as big curve as in FH, but the kind of curve that it is turning all the time. So the dog needed to concentrate. The field was difficult enough and 6 hours long enough that he needed to concentrate well and still did some mistakes. But again, it worked well for building up the endurance. Coming out of the curve there was possibility to make again about 200 steps straight, before dog is going to automatically.
When I think about the endurance and working at the edge of the self-confidence starting to break, I need to make such straights in the track that dog feels that he can manage and he wins the track. That’s why I build them one by one after traps and problems.
Next part of the track was not too long straights and normal corners. At this stage it was just working on endurance. As 80–100 step straights are short enough that dog does not go to automatically and corners bring him down as he remembers well the problems in the first part, it works nicely like this. The idea of this part was to keep dog in certain level and mood, that he works concentrated, will not go automatically, he feels, that he can lose the track, but he gets self-confidence from the corners. I built up the corners in the places where they were not too easy. So you can see in every corner how dog looks for the corner. It builds up nicely the endurance and also makes dog more precise in the track. As you see from the video dog was already nicely tired, but still working in the way he needs to concentrate. This part was also necessary to warm up dog before the Most crossings will come. Most crossings are always difficult for the dog, as they are not logical and they always build up some conflict. I use them to teach dog work better being in the conflict. Most is difficult as mostly cross tracks are going over, but in Most the original track is continuing with crossing track and dog must be really careful to understand the difference. After understanding the difference he must come back to crossing, where there are two directions – one is right and another is wrong. Such situation always builds up some stress.
Before the first Most crossing I did longer straight as I wanted to get the dog more automatic and make more obvious mistake at the crossing. As he was tired enough at this moment it was quite certain that with 6 hours old track I can provoke mistake like this. As you see in the video dog gets quite stressed over there as I went also over the crossing (turning point) it was also difficult for the dog as there is no original left. So dog had even more problems not finding any solution. He understood that the track he was working was wrong, but there was not any correct one anywhere. Letting dog search in such situation longer makes him more and more stressed. I use such moves when I want to teach dog getting out from the stress as quick as possible or teach him to solve problems under stress. So after keeping dog some time in this mood, I move back and give dog possibility to find correct track. As you see from the video Hawk calms down really quickly and finds correct working mood for himself. If you think about all the track and time he had already worked coming to this point, it is certain that he is tired already and such exercises build up what is needed.
Coming to the second Most crossing Hawk solves it much quicker. I kept the distance between two Most short (just about 70 steps) as I wanted that the dog is still stressed from the previous and he not yet stabilized. So I get the right exercise in there. I put one piece of food in the distance just to give to the dog some more confidence. So my idea was to get the dog to the second Most crossing just in the right state of mind – tired, little bit stressed but still active and give him experience that he needs to solve difficult problem at this state of mind.
Like you understand there has been three different parts until this moment that worked different way in the track. First part was made to make dog more tired and a little stressed, second was to make him more tired but stabilize to better state of mind and now with the Most crossings I wanted to reach the place where dog is already as tired as possible and still having working capabilities. If the dog would be more fresh, I would lose the exercise in this point, as it would be too easy and he would not develop in the state of mind and tiredness what I wanted. If the Most crossing would be more until the end, the dog would be too tired to win and I would again lose the idea. The distance until the first crossing was about 1650 steps. But like you understand it is not so much about the number of steps, but the idea to guide the dog to state of mind and tiredness needed. So 1700 steps can be also easy and would dog look totally different.
After these Most crossings I knew that Hawk will be tired and his self-confidence / working ability goes already to such border that I do not want to put him anymore to so „dark“ room. But anyhow I made two quite short straights having sharp corners at the end and the idea was that he cannot still stabilize so well after all this previous stress and he needs to solve these sharp corners. With the second sharp corner the stress part ended. The last part of the track was working with tired dog, who had to concentrate well but did not have to solve any difficult problems building up stress. So there were three different curves in the last part after every 100 steps, as curve is more difficult to the dog than just angle. Angle is more automatic to the dog as angle is very often just an angle. In the part until this there was just one article what I placed in the position I wanted to load dog a little with energy. So it was long tracking without articles. In this last part there were three articles to load dog more and give him energy to work, when you look the last straight and last curve (that was really small to make it more difficult) I corrected dog more. The reason was that he was already so exhausted that he had problems with concentration, so giving short small corrections is a little help to the dog but it influences the dog to concentrate more in the situation when he is already tired. So this part built up nicely endurance as Hawk was tired, he wanted to work looser, but I demanded the work and the track was so much easier that he actually really could win. As you look in the after the Most crossings in several parts of the track I let Hawk work totally loose of leash. The idea is that then he cannot read me anyhow and needs to work by himself. In that last straight I gave him even distance about 40 meters , so he needed to have good concentration and self-confidence to work it out by himself knowing that I do not follow, so he can trust just himself.
Like I wrote in the beginning this tracking training had a lot of parts and ideas I use in my everyday trainings in my group. Those people who read this article through got quite good picture of it and looking the video it also illustrates it. I know that 1 hour video is too way long, but it had so much details inside that I wanted to show it. So I hope that it gives some ideas and explains my methods better. This is how I train dogs in my group and that is one of the reasons why these dogs have got really nice tracking results in the local bigger competitions and also managed well in World Championships. When you look Hawk in the final article you can see how tired the dog is and how he did not show this in the work, because he needed to concentrate. From such a track I could move very easy to easier tracks having already about 4000 steps length.